Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fierce Reads Author Interview PART ONE with Marie Rutkoski, Cecelia Ahern, Harriet Reuter Hapgood, and Emma Mills and MEGA Giveaway for ALL Fierce Reads titles from St Louis (US only)

Dear Readers:
I was incredibly lucky to get to meet all the lovely ladies for the St. Louis stop of the Fierce Reads tour and get to spend an hour with them asking all my questions :-) I will be splitting this interview and introducing the books from these authors between two posts. YOU all are fortunate because Fierce Reads Macmillian has agreed to award one lucky winner with all the books promoted on the St. Louis stop! IN ADDITION, the wonderful Left Bank Books store in St. Louis who ran the event, agreed to donate 1 signed copy of THE SQUARE ROOT OF SUMMER by Harriet Reuter Hapgood. To get the most entries, you need to see both posts on the interview today and tomorrow! And the interview is THAT GOOD that you want to stick around. Without further ado, I'd like to introduce 2 of the 4 books. 

THE WINNER'S TRILOGY by Marie Rutkoski

Goodreads Book Description of The Winner's Curse: 
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love...

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
FLAWED by Cecelia Ahern

Goodreads Description:  
23438288You will be punished…

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found flawed.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.
Without further ado, the first half of the transcript of my interview with these fantastic authors! 

From left to right, Marie Rutkoski, Emma Mills, ME, Harriet Reuter Hapgood, and Cecelia Ahern.

Me: I just have a collection of questions to get the conversation started. And like I said, I loved all of your books, so this is going to be easy for me! The first question that I love to ask is: Tell us three words to describe your entire book or trilogy.


Cecelia: This is going to be easy to transcribe, just silence!


Me: Helps, gives me time to transcribe.

Cecelia: I’ll go first since everyone’s quiet!


Cecelia: Emotional. Pacy. What’s a word for something that has a moral? Moralistic? [laughs] That’s not a word.

Emma: Moralistical?


[Everyone thinks very deeply]

Marie: Ethical? No, that’s not what you want.

Me: It’s like the opposite of ethical, what’s happening in your book.


Cecelia: Sorry, guys. You jump in. Hey, I got two out of three!


Emma: I’ll speak very broadly. For First and Then, I would say, super broadly, “Football. Family. And Romance.”

Marie: That’s great. Nouns are better than adjectives, I think.

Harriet: For Square Root Summer, I would say “Mathematics. Memory. Loss.”

Cecelia: That’s perfect.

Harriet: Thank you! I had longer to think.


Me: And it has multiple meanings! Memory loss and loss in general.

Harriet: Oooh! I didn’t mean it that way, but feel free to say that I did to make me sound cleverer than I am!

Me (speaking to Marie): I know you have the hardest job, with a trilogy.

Marie: Empire. Romance. I wish there was one word for “morally grey.”

Me: The other word I would think for your trilogy is “strategy.”

Marie: Okay. Yeah, that works.

Emma: I like that.

Cecelia: I’m going to add “Love” to mine. That’s my third one.

Me: That’s perfect.

Cecelia: It’s broad.


Me: Something I thought about today, and you guys may have noticed this on the road already, that each one of your books, your main characters have particular names and it’s very important for the story as to how your character is named. I’d like you each to talk about your character’s name, how you came up with it, and did you figure this out right away, or is this something you came up with later, just what was the development and thought process behind that.

Harriet: Oh yes, I’ll kick off first. That’s interesting because her name wasn’t originally Gottie H. Oppenheimer in the first draft. She was called Mallorie Reynolds because I thought it would be a fun Firefly reference. Then as she developed, I went through several first names and then I went through several German surnames and she was “Margot Kreutz” for a while. And then Thomas was called Oppenheimer. Then when I signed with my agent, she was like why are there so many German names in this tiny pocket in North Norfolk, was there some kind of invasion?


Harriet: But I wanted to keep the Oppenheimer name from a friend of mine, so I just shifted it over to her and gave him [Thomas] a generic English name. And then when that finally settled she kind of clicked into place. Yes, I sort of go through names constantly while I’m drafting until the character slips into place.

Emma: It’s a great name.

Me: Doesn’t it have a mathematical background too or am I just imaging it?

Harriet: I think it does but at the time, it was purely reference to a friend of mine. She was called Mia Ray Oppenheimer.

Marie: Oppenheimer is the one who constructed the bomb, right? The Manhattan Project? So he was a physicist.

Harriet: Wow! That’s purely accidental!

Cecelia: That’s amazing, how incredible!

Me: It was just meant to be.

Cecelia: So Celestine came from one of my favorite books called The Celestine Prophecy, which I read when I was 21. It was a big thing to me. And then North about her heading in the right direction, or about her finding a direction. And I wanted it to be North!

Me: I wondered if it was a reference to morality.

Cecelia: More about direction and knowing where you are heading. Focusing on a direction.

Emma: For mine, since it’s a YA contemporary, there’s less symbolism with the name. But I really like the sound of Devon. But my agent read it and was like, oh like Devon for Devonshire, because the main character really likes Jane Austen, but it wasn’t planned, it just worked out that way.

Me: But what about the last name Tennyson?

Emma: Yeah, another writer.


Emma: But I just liked the way it sounded. It worked out well! It’s catchy!

Marie: I named my main character Kestrel. Maybe let’s start with Arin first, it’s easier and less complicated. I named Arin “Arin,” because I had a friend named Arin, and his name was spelled that way because it was raining on the day he was born.

Everyone: Oh wow!!

Marie: And it was an anagram of “Rain.”

Cecelia: That’s amazing.

Me: And it fits with him too.

Marie: It definitely fits with his character too. All of his different moods. So when I talked to the people who were doing the production of the audio version of the book, she said, “I think it should be pronounced “AH-Rin.” And I said, you know, let’s stick with that because it sounds better. It sounds more part of the language as to how I envisioned it. It’s a very lyrical language full of softer vowels than AIR-Rin is. So that was his name. And Kestrel, I named more because not so much about the character but because of her father and about his personality and what he would name his baby girl, his one child, who he expected to follow him to the military life and be like him and be in his world. So that would mean he would name her after something fierce and predatory and a kestrel is a small, hunting hawk.

Me: And she’s small and fierce.

Marie: Yes, I don’t think he necessarily anticipated that she would REMAIN small, but if you imagine a little baby, if you are a general, war-mongering general who could be tried for war crimes in our world, and you have this baby girl in front of you, small and screaming, and fierce, Kestrel’s a good name for that baby.

Me: Did that come first or did you come up with the name later?

Marie: Well no, it was more what would be the perfect name that he would give her or want to give her. And plus, Kestrel’s a really pretty name. I like the name.

Me: It’s perfect for her.

Marie: Thank you!

Me: So what came first for you guys, the characters or the story?

Cecelia: For all of my novels, the ideas come first and the concept. And then I would try to find what kind of character would find themselves in that situation. So I always first find the idea and then put the opposite kind of person in that story, and it’s always been like that. So it was create a society that doesn’t tolerate imperfection, create a character that’s imperfect. That’s what I do for every story. And then it grows in spurts, grows legs. And all kinds of things.


Emma: Yeah, I would say the opposite, probably! So the character first and the nature of their interactions with the people around them is what happens first, and then I find my plot through that.

Me: Do you have all the characters ahead of time? Or just the main ones and then the others kind of populate later as the story grows?

Emma: I would say probably the main ones. Center it on the protagonist and then what’s the nature of their romantic situation, what’s the nature of their familial relationships, what’s their friendships, and then other people branch off from that. It’s worked so far, we’ll see!

Harriet: I would say that plot and character come at the same time. Then stop and then add a little bit of both, and see where it goes. There was no big flash of inspiration where I said, “I’m going to write wormholes!” You know, it was just going to be a summer, math book, and then you sort of inch forward with the character and then the plot, and then mess around to balance it all out.

Marie: In the case of this particular trilogy, I started with the idea first in The Winner’s Curse, with the scenario first. The winner’s curse is when in an auction you win because you’ve decided to pay more than anyone else thinks it’s worth. And in that sense, every auction is a winner’s curse. Every time you pay and you win, like buying a house…


Harriet: I was wondering if that’s what you were thinking!

Cecelia: You were SO transparent!


Marie: I know, but it’s true! But literally, every single one is technically a winner’s curse because at least in that very moment, before anyone knows the future and before anyone knows what it’s worth, you only won because you paid more. Anyway, so once I started from that phrase, as the title, and that concept, I thought of the idea of an auction, where someone would pay a price. It then led to thinking about what it would mean to buy a person. And then what sort of person would buy another person. While Kestrel makes some bad decisions and also some very ethical problematic ones, her heart is usually in the right place. And I think she’s basically a good hearted individual. Anyway, that was more or less the chronology of my thought. And in terms of character, once I had the idea and the scenario at the very beginning of the book, mostly what I realized about my character was that she did have a good heart, she was capable of making bad decisions, and that she was incredibly intelligent. And very strategic. And sometimes undone by her own strategies.

Me: Did you plan to write a trilogy at the beginning? Or did it just sort of get bigger and bigger.

Marie: I did not plan on writing a trilogy.

Cecelia: Oh really!

Marie: Nope!

Cecelia and others: Whoa.

Marie: Have we not talked about this yet?

Cecelia: No, we haven’t!

Marie: I had not planned on a trilogy. I thought that “I’m going to write a standalone!” Trilogies are so hard! And why would I want to write a trilogy! But as I was deep into the writing of the first draft for the first book, I just realized that I couldn’t end the book in any other way than would be true to me, but very dissatisfying for readers. So I would have felt okay with walking away from the end of book one, and feel like that was a true end to that story. That’s how things would fall out.

Cecelia: I don’t think I remember the ending to the first book, how did it go?

Marie: I don’t want to spoil it for any readers!

Me: I promise to take this part out to remove any spoilers [Thus, spoilers removed from transcript]

Cecelia: I would have never spoken to you again.


Marie: I know, and I realized that! Even though I didn’t know you at the time…

Cecelia: If you knew me, you’d keep it that way because you don’t want to speak to me again after this tour!


Harriet: Little did you know, there was an imp in your future.

Cecelia: What do you mean, imp?!

Harriet: Or a hobbit!

Cecelia: Look at these feet! There are no hair on them whatsoever! I have beautiful little feet! Hairless!


Harriet: What size are you?

Cecelia: Size 4, but 7 in the US.

Harriet: I think you are more like a US 6.

Cecelia: No, no. I’m definitely at 7.

Harriet: Ok. You would know.


Marie: Are you SURE you’re not a hobbit?

Me: How many breakfasts do you have?


Cecelia: Breakfasts??

Me: Yes, hobbits have 3 or 4 breakfasts!

Cecelia: What about imps?

Harriet: Definitely transcribe all of this portion!

Marie: But I did register that it would be an unsatisfying ending for my readers. So I thought, well, what would happen after that. And I became excited about what would transpire, and I could see the shape of the next two books, and I really wanted to write them. So I sold them as a trilogy.

Cecelia: Wow that’s great.

Harriet: I was going to ask that if you wrote any of the trilogy before selling it?

Marie: Well, the first book was entirely finished before I sold it. But as a partial? I’ve never done that before. Sold on a partial. It feels uncomfortable to me. So I always write the book first, so once I wrote the first book, I realized it was a trilogy and I sold it as such.

Cecelia: I’ve just signed 4 books without writing them for the next four year. I am busy for the next… what year are we in?

Marie: 2016.

Cecelia: 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Me: Is this Flawed?

Cecelia: No, this is not Flawed. These are other books. Usually there are three book deals, this is the first time I’ve done a 4 book deal. So when you said you’ve never sold a book without writing it, I now have a contract without even having ideas.

Marie: Well, this is the first time I have a contract without having any solid ideas. I have sold books that have not been written, but when they are sequels, you know, when I have the first totally written, and then I say this is the first of three books and then this is a summary of what the other two books will look like. And this time no. There’s just a deal. It’s a nice contract.

Cecelia: See? It’s nice all the trust they have in you.

Marie: All misplaced.


Marie: I’m kidding, I’m kidding! You can strike that from the record. (Nope! ;-))


Marie: They can trust me!

Cecelia: When I think it’s stressful, I think about all those authors who struggle to just get those book deals, and then I think, it’s a nice problem to have. But yeah, it’s a bit, eek!

Emma: So are they all connected? Or just 4 separate books to be written?

Cecelia: Not connected. Any books.

Harriet: And one a year?

Cecelia: Yeah.

Harriet: Holy cannoli.

Me: But it’s not a series then right?

Cecelia: Well, I don’t know! [laughs] Maybe it will be! I don’t think it will be. I generally write stand alones. This is the first time that I’ve deviated.

Me: And is Flawed going to be a trilogy?

Cecelia: No, it’s a duology. The next one will be called Perfect. And then my next novel is going to be about an imp.


Me: You?

Cecelia: And he’s in the back of the car.

Me: You.


Cecelia: Crammed in with his fellow warriors.

Marie: Warriors? We’re warriors.

Cecelia. So that’s it. That’s an exclusive.


Cecelia: My publishers are going to be so excited when they see this!

Me: They’ll be like what? You’re writing what?

[Laughter, pause]

That's it for the first half of the transcript! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I loved interviewing them! Now you can enter part of the giveaway today and the rest of it tomorrow with the second half of the giveaway!

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  1. Oh I love this! The interview was so cute, funny and everyone seemed like great friends. *warm and fuzzy feeling*

  2. Oh wow. I hope to sit down one day and interview some of my favorite authors. Marie got really into her process of writing The Winner's Trilogy, and I love how she came up with Kestrel's name. And Arin. Rain, really? I've never seen Ahern in full picture, so I'm about to click and see. Is she really tiny? This is a great interview!

    1. She is super cute and tiny :-) Other than "imp," I'd call her a pixie! Thanks for always thoughtfully reading my posts. I'm so lucky to have you as a follower!

  3. Well, let's all wait for Cecelia Ahern's upcoming novel about an imp! HAHAHA

    I really like how chill authors are, it always surprises me how nonchalant they can be around us, maybe because sometimes I forget that they're JUST HUMANS. They make this wonderful worlds and stories that some readers (myself included) see them as a whole new kind of species! :D

  4. Well, let's all wait for Cecelia Ahern's upcoming novel about an imp! HAHAHA

    I really like how chill authors are, it always surprises me how nonchalant they can be around us, maybe because sometimes I forget that they're JUST HUMANS. They make this wonderful worlds and stories that some readers (myself included) see them as a whole new kind of species! :D

  5. I learned that Cecelia's "Flawed" main character Celestine's name was taken from a book I've never even heard of, The Celestine Prophecy. Thanks!

  6. Though I haven't read the Winner's Curse yet, I loved discovering the meaning behind the protagonist's name and how Marie came up with it.

  7. Definitely excited to read Winner's Curse! And ha, I have pretty big feet so I don't have to worry about being called an imp ;)